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flamhoff

Kickout Fatigue: A look at ROH, WWE, & TNA

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Any fan of pure, absolute wrestling should be watching Ring of Honor. Not since the incredible ECW product of the late 90's has there been a collection of such amazing, pure, talent rich wrestling going on for us to enjoy.

Of course, after watching a replay of the recent ROH ippv, Glory by Honor XI, I was struck by a thought. While ROH inarguably contains the best wrestling, it is not the best wrestling promotion.

My reasoning for this is that ROH exists at one extreme of the Wrestling Industry spectrum. ROH contains matches that are awe inspiring. You'll see moves you've never seen before on a nightly basis, you'll again and again have to take back your snap judgements of wrestlers who start off looking boring and turn out to be incredible, you'll see back and forth wars where it's impossible to know who's going to win. And a lot of times, beyond the simple enjoyment of the physical wrestling, you won't really care.

That's because ROH is awful at storylines. Let me rephrase. They care very little about creating storylines. Maybe it's because they only have a single hour on TV each week to do it, or maybe it's because they're so attached to being the only "pure wrestling" product around, but whatever the case is, the fact remains that of an entire ppv card, there's usually only substantial story to back up 1 match. That's followed by maybe 2 other matches that have the bare minimum of story backup (your typical, "I don't like you" or "I'll prove I'm better than you" thing.)

When a match has no story, there's no emotional investment. When there's no emotional investment, there's just us watching some great athletes and then politely clapping when one bests the other. Entertaining? Sure. Impactful? Not really.

Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum, the WWE. On this side of the Wrestling Industry, you have the opposite problem. All they are here are story. At some point, the idea of "wrestling" completely took a back seat to the idea of "entertainment". It went from the fantastic Sports Entertainment product that we all knew and loved to an Entertainment Sports product that exists today.

Just look at any broadcast of RAW or Smackdown. It opens with a 15 - 20 minute talking segment. Most matches it contains last under 5 minutes and are just a squash. Most meaningful matches that showcase actual wrestling feature bullcrap finishes (Sheamus vs Wade Barrett, anybody?), as actually having one guy beat another guy seems to be the worst possible outcome in the mind of WWE creative.

Instead of awesome wrestling, WWE is obsessed with creating awesome characters, and awesome interviews, and awesome comedy, and awesome dancing, and awesome social media. The wrestling ability of these stars takes a backseat to their charisma, their likability, their talking skills, their social media impact.

That's not to say I don't enjoy WWE, because at times I do. Whenever the company gets out of its own way and allows amazing talents to really go to war, you see something special. If they could just learn to ease back on the 25 minute long conversations in the ring, and the 6 mandatory backstage talking segments, and the 95% b.s. finishes in the matches, this company could be truly great. But instead, one of the greatest talents they've had in decades is busy yelling "I am the tag team champions" for the 100th time, because if something is funny once, WWE will keep shoving it down your throat for at least the next five months.

This brings me to TNA, which exists somewhat in the middle of the spectrum. Over the past year, TNA has been my favorite wrestling to watch, because it showcases much more wrestling than WWE does, but still takes some time for storylines unlike ROH.

The mixture of story, talking, b.s. match endings, and full on great wrestling is pretty perfect on any given episode of Impact. That's not to say it's a perfect product, because it clearly isn't, but at least they operate with a great recipe.

Talent are unleashed in TNA to do what they do best, wrestle. Sure, there are some great talkers, and they do a great job when given the opportunity to shine in that regard, but the focus at the end of the day always seems to come back to the ring. It's the opposite of WWE, where so many times the focus of their stories and characters feel so far removed from a wrestling ring.

TNA does humor, they have funny characters, but they don't reduce them to SNL skits. They allow them to weave humor into their storylines which lead them to the ring where they have amazing matches. Even through the abysmal Clare Lynch/A.J. Styles storyline, Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels were gold on a nightly basis. They shined with great material amidst a storyline that started out bad and got progressively worse until it reached awfulness of historical proportions. And oh yeah, they delivered on some amazing matches during that time.

For all my analysis and all my criticism, I watch and enjoy all three of these wrestling promotions. I love professional wrestling, and thus I wish for the industry to be better than it currently is. But I also love that there's some varying degrees of the product available out there. Want just pure talent and "shut up and wrestle" action? Then ROH is going to blow your mind and deliver top shelf matches every single time. Want a show where comedy and story are showcased more than the wrestling? Then the current WWE product should really excite you. Want something in between, with some incredible talent putting on incredible matches while there's still some story and humor? Then TNA is what you want.

No matter what choice you make, you have to admit, it's a good time to be a pro wrestling fan. There are some amazing young talents in the business right now, some new legends cementing their legacies before our eyes (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Kevin Steen), and some old legends giving us the last of their greatness. I may analyze and I may complain at times, but one thing I also will be doing is tuning in every single night that wrestling is on my television.

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Comments

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  1. flamhoff's Avatar
    Thanks everyone for the great thoughts and feedback. It's nice to know that wrestling fans can have intelligent discussion about wrestling, and I greatly enjoyed reading everything you all had to say about my first blog.
  2. Dubs's Avatar
    I don't agree with the notion of ROH caring little about creating exciting storylines. Kevin Steen vs El Generico was the best storyline in 2010. Another exciting storyline they produced was Eddie Edwards vs Davey Richards in their match-up at Best in the World 2011. It's not that they don't care about producing great storylines, it's because Jim Cornette is so out of touch these days when it comes to booking storylines and when Kevin Steen and Davey Richards both say hes outdated and needs to retire, then that's a problem. Now that Delirious has replaced Cornette as head booker, maybe ROH will improve again and their Glory By Honor PPV was a step in the ring direction.

    As for WWE not caring enough about the wrestling side of things, I don't agree with that either. Take Daniel Bryan for example. The WWE have been high on Daniel Bryan because of his wrestling ability and they were also impressed with his match with CM Punk at Over The Limit. They even let them work another match with one another at Money in the Bank based on the rave reviews their match at Over The Limit got. Although he may be in a comedy skit with Kane as the tag team champions, his amazing wrestling ability along with his great heel persona is something that got him over in the first place. They are even impressed with Antonio Cesaro because of his wrestling ability and he doesn't even have a gimmick right now.

    WWE may be about entertainment but they have given us the best matches this year and if they didn't care about giving us an awesome match to see, we wouldn't have seen CM Punk and Chris Jericho wrestle at Wrestlemania 28 and we wouldn't have seen CM Punk and Daniel Bryan put on a MOTY performance at Over The Limit either.
  3. flamhoff's Avatar
    I didn't mean that ROH doesn't care about creating exciting storylines, because I think that deep down they do. The point I was trying to make is that they don't HAVE many exciting storylines. The majority of their matches boil down to "this guy hates this guy" or "here's 2 greats going one on one", there's just not enough story there. I couldn't agree more with you, Steen/Generico was brilliance, and I also agree that Delirious should be able to really help ROH reach new levels.

    I'm not sure I'm totally with you on your WWE thoughts though. Let's take what you said about Daniel Bryan. If I'm really going to be picky, I'd argue that it wasn't his wrestling ability that got him over, it was the fact that his "YES!" chant caught lightning in a bottle. WWE saw the potential to sell a hundred thousand t-shirts off of this guy, and that's likely why he got such a spotlight.

    However, Bryan is an amazing wrestler, and despite WHY he got a push, let's look at what that push has really been all about. Some amazing matches with CM Punk? No doubt, that Over the Limit match was easily one of the 5 best matches of the year. But what has he done since those classics with Punk? An awkward 3 way feud over AJ, then now he does... what exactly? Gets squashed by Big Show? Bryan is really the point I was trying to make. He's one of the best wrestlers working today, and yet he's used primarily in comedy skits and mediocre tag matches.

    You mention Cesaro, someone who I agree has a ton of potential. They may be impressed with his wrestling ability, so why not let him showcase it? Is a 4 minute squash against Justin Gabriel the type of great wrestling we want to see? Is a 2 minute mauling of Brodus Clay the best way to showcase Cesaro's talent?

    WWE has the resources and the ability to create magic. They've proven it time and again. Punk vs Jericho at Wrestlemania, Bryan vs Punk at Over the Limit, heck, even though I don't love Cena, I thought Cena vs Punk at Night of Champions was greatness. The problem is, that greatness comes far too infrequently for WWE. The number of truly amazing matches they put forth on a monthly basis is far less than what it should be. That doesn't mean they don't do great wrestling, it just means they don't do nearly enough of it.
  4. flamhoff's Avatar
    OH, and also, thanks very much for sharing your thoughts Dubs. Even though we don't see eye to eye on WWE, it's still always fun to discuss the wrestling business with intelligent folks, so thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to discuss it with me.
  5. Speezy88's Avatar
    I love your blog. I think you hit it exactly right on the head about each company and what their strenths and weaknesses are. A lot of this info holds true. I’ve just recently starting getting into ROH and I’ve done research and seen guys like Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan back when he was Bryan Danielson and others and I gotta say they have crept up to being my number 2 show behind TNA. I watch all three and I love WWE, but it’s like you said it’s too much attention on storyline and not enough action. When was it the last time that on TV you had a match go longer than like 5-10 minutes and it not be on a PPV in WWE? It’s kinda says a lot when a female who doesn’t watch wrestling sits and watches an episode of RAW and says, “Why do you watch this? It’s like watching a male soap opera.”
  6. Dubs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by flamhoff
    I didn't mean that ROH doesn't care about creating exciting storylines, because I think that deep down they do. The point I was trying to make is that they don't HAVE many exciting storylines. The majority of their matches boil down to "this guy hates this guy" or "here's 2 greats going one on one", there's just not enough story there. I couldn't agree more with you, Steen/Generico was brilliance, and I also agree that Delirious should be able to really help ROH reach new levels.
    I do think ROH used to have many exciting storylines back when Gabe was writing for them. Way better storylines than the WWE at the time but like I said, it boiled down to Jim Cornette's outdated booking which is why ROH doesn't have many exciting storylines today but hopefully that will change since Delirious is the head booker.

    I'm not sure I'm totally with you on your WWE thoughts though. Let's take what you said about Daniel Bryan. If I'm really going to be picky, I'd argue that it wasn't his wrestling ability that got him over, it was the fact that his "YES!" chant caught lightning in a bottle. WWE saw the potential to sell a hundred thousand t-shirts off of this guy, and that's likely why he got such a spotlight.
    While true, the fans were chanting 'Yes!' chants BECAUSE of his amazing wrestling ability. He has always had a cult following because of his wrestling ability even when he went to the WWE. The WWE saw that they could market his Yes chants but they also saw him as a main eventer the way he worked his matches with amazing story-telling in it. In his match with CM Punk at Over The Limit, the crowd was pro-D-Bry all night because of him showcasing his amazing technical wrestling skills.

    However, Bryan is an amazing wrestler, and despite WHY he got a push, let's look at what that push has really been all about. Some amazing matches with CM Punk? No doubt, that Over the Limit match was easily one of the 5 best matches of the year. But what has he done since those classics with Punk? An awkward 3 way feud over AJ, then now he does... what exactly? Gets squashed by Big Show? Bryan is really the point I was trying to make. He's one of the best wrestlers working today, and yet he's used primarily in comedy skits and mediocre tag matches.
    Those storylines led us to a solid Triple Threat match between Kane, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan at No Way Out, a great NO DQ match between Daniel Bryan and CM Punk at Money in the Bank, and a solid match between Daniel Bryan and Kane at Summerslam. I'm sure Kane and Daniel Bryan's tag team title reign (despite being a comedy tag team) will give us a solid match-up between other great teams like Team Rhodes Scholars.

    You mention Cesaro, someone who I agree has a ton of potential. They may be impressed with his wrestling ability, so why not let him showcase it? Is a 4 minute squash against Justin Gabriel the type of great wrestling we want to see? Is a 2 minute mauling of Brodus Clay the best way to showcase Cesaro's talent?
    His squash matches let him showcase his wrestling ability which is why WWE Officials are high on him. His match with Brodus Clay was short but it let him showcase his strength in that match. I'm sure they are going to let him work more than a 6 minute match but the reason why hes put in these 4-2 minute squash matches is because they are trying to make him a dominant United States champion.

    WWE has the resources and the ability to create magic. They've proven it time and again. Punk vs Jericho at Wrestlemania, Bryan vs Punk at Over the Limit, heck, even though I don't love Cena, I thought Cena vs Punk at Night of Champions was greatness. The problem is, that greatness comes far too infrequently for WWE. The number of truly amazing matches they put forth on a monthly basis is far less than what it should be. That doesn't mean they don't do great wrestling, it just means they don't do nearly enough of it.
    I do think WWE does a pretty good job balancing out the entertainment and wrestling side of things. They may have comedy skits and squash matches but they do deliver by giving us awesome wrestling matches.
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